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Welcome to pregnancy and all the questions: When is it OK to ... ?

We often have SO many questions during pregnancy. Is it OK to dye our hair or take pain medication? Dr. Jessica Shepherd has the answers.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

Pregnancy is time for so many glorious changes — and for so many tough questions.

To help sort out when it’s OK to do certain activities during those oh-so-blissful 40 weeks, TODAY turned to University of Chicago obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Jessica Shepherd to set the record straight.

TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie, expecting her second child, noted that many women rely on “Dr. Google” for answers. Is that a bad thing to do?

“It usually is not the best idea because there are a lot of variations on the internet, so we want you to have the best information,” Shepherd said, urging women to talk with their health care provider.

Here are the pregnancy topics they tackled:

When is it OK to exercise?

This is important because the advice may have changed.

“Previously, we would say, ‘Oh maybe you shouldn’t exercise during pregnancy,’” Shepherd said. “But we want you to exercise during pregnancy.”

Before you start, though, she said you should talk to your health care provider.

“There’s adjustments that you need to make in pregnancy, whether that’s with the cardiovascular system or your joints,” Shepherd said, adding: “It also contributes to decreasing that postpartum weight, so you can kind of go back to your prepregnancy weight a little bit quicker with exercise.”

When is it OK to bleach or dye your hair?

Shepherd said women can do hair treatments.

“When we think about the chemicals that they’re exposed to, they’re really not that toxic,” she said. “And there’s also that assumption that people think that it’s absorbed by the bloodstream, which it’s not.”

There are alternatives, though, like using semi-permanent dye or henna. “Or, for best-case scenario, if you really are not comfortable with that, don’t do any hair treatments during pregnancy or wait until after your first trimester, which is the first 12 to 13 weeks,” Shepherd said.

When is it OK to have a glass of wine?

“This one was a tough one for me too,” said Shepherd, a new mom herself. “But as a health care provider, we generally recommend do not take any alcohol during the pregnancy.”

The reason is because of possible fetal alcohol syndrome, which she called “the most preventable form of mental retardation.”

“If we don’t want any risk at all, the best thing to do is not to put yourself at risk and have any alcohol intake,” she added.

When is it OK to take pain medicine?

If you’re in pain during pregnancy, health care providers will want to know if the pain is something that’s brand new.

“Because if it’s new in pregnancy and you’re masking that pain, that may hide some diseases or conditions during pregnancy,” Shepherd said.

For mild pain, providers usually recommend women take acetaminophen and not ibuprofen.

That’s “because we don’t want to affect the baby’s kidneys, the amniotic fluid levels and if you are taking narcotics, we want you to make sure you are doing that under the auspice and guidance of your health care provider,” Shepherd said.

When is it OK to head to the hospital?

It’s the grand finale, the day we’ve all been waiting for. Toward the end of your pregnancy, here’s what to look for:

“If you break your bag of waters, which would be a sudden gush of fluid or maybe sometimes a constant trickle, then you should go to the hospital and be evaluated,” Shepherd says.

When it comes to fetal movement, she says: “If you find that the baby is not moving as much as you like, then you really want to pay close attention to it and if it becomes more of an issue then you need to talk to your health care provider.”

Bleeding is another big factor. While you may have a little spotting toward the end of your pregnancy, Shepherd says doctors want to make sure you’re not bleeding too much and you should be evaluated if you have heavy bleeding.

And last but not least, it’s time to hit the road when those contractions keep coming, five minutes apart or less.

Here’s to a happy and healthy pregnancy to all! contributor Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter: @lisaflam